The same but different


I feel lucky to have both: Italy and England, Rome and London. Of course there is the missing, the often exasperating toing and froing, the grass is greener and bouts of in-between when I’m not sure where I belong. But mostly I feel lucky and glad to have two countries, two cities and that in different ways I belong to both.

The day before I left I had my first Roman asparagus, long thin sprue, finer than a pencil, part boiled-part steamed under a tea towel turban until tender enough to bend but not flop with olive oil, lemon and parchment thin slivers of pecorino that swooned and wilted in the presence of such splendid warm spears. Then today, back at my parents house just outside London, I had my first English asparagus.


As you can see they are plumpish spears, which needed just a little whittling with a peeler to remove the not-too-woody tougher end. We steamed them, sitting on a nifty implement that looks rather like a perforated metallic flower, in Mum’s largest lidded sauté pan. I tried and failed abysmally to make hollandaise sauce, so we settled for melted butter instead.

It was such a nice lunch: new potatoes: taut, waxy and flecked with snipped chives and tender asparagus spears – like sweet slightly sulphurous peas – fearlessly doused with melted butter. There were hard-boiled eggs too. Not too hard-boiled though, more like tender-boiled eggs and sourdough bread. There were things to celebrate so I had a glass of Hugel muscat. The same but different.


Asparagus, new potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and melted butter.

This is hardly a recipe, more an assembly. Serves 3 and a quarter (Luca)

  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • 4 good eggs
  • 8 new potatoes
  • a very fat slice of best butter
  • chives
  • salt and pepper.

Prepare the asparagus by either breaking off the tough woody end or using a peeler to carefully whittle it away. Scrub and boil the new potatoes in well salted water until tender. Hard boil the eggs. Cook the asparagus until tender enough to bend but not flop. Melt the butter.

Dress the potatoes with melted butter and snipped chives and the asparagus with the remaining melted butter. Give everyone a hard-boiled egg to peel and remind them to roll the asparagus and potatoes in the puddle of melted butter as they serve themselves. Obviously white wine and good bread wouldn’t go amiss.


I’m back in Rome on Sunday so hope to be back here with plumper post late next week.


Filed under asparagus, Eggs, rachel eats London, Rachel's Diary, spring recipes

44 responses to “The same but different

  1. “Things to celebrate.” Can’t wait. Cheers, Rachel.

    • rachel

      I wish we were nearer so I could tell you all about it over a drink. I love keeping up with your beautiful food pictures in FB – Rxx

  2. “a plumper post.” love.

  3. I love the first paragraph so much. You have me thinking about the richness of feeling home in more than one place–and this is from the perspective of someone who often wishes she could get everyone and everything she loves all in one spot on the map. Lovely.

    • rachel

      I too often wish I could have everyone and everything all in one place. I have just passed through a mighty bout of in-between so feeling gald for that and both. Hope you are both well?

  4. I hear you. Lots. Heading to the city anytime before your departure? x

    • rachel

      Hi Valeria – we were in The city but briefly and with many small children. Next time I hope we can have lunch?x

  5. asparagus is a celebration no matter where it is. I’ve been scowling at ours for already having thrown in the towel for the year. I know just what you mean about having one foot in each home. It can be hard to decide if it is twice the joy or half of it.

    • rachel

      You are so right, I’d say i swing erratically between half and double. Scowling at asparagus – that says it all really, I hope the rest of your garden is thriving. All best R

  6. Hilary

    ‘parchment thin slivers of pecorino that swooned and wilted in the presence of such splendid warm spears’ – love!!

  7. YUM, I love asparagus, such a treat.

  8. Oh, your English lunch just looks PERFECT to me. More Delia than Marcella, of course, and just as wonderful. I might have been happy to add a little crumbly piece of Cheshire cheese.

    Plump asparagus are my favorites. I cook them flat in a saute pan. Put the asparagus flat in the pan, fill with water, salt the water, bring to a boil, and then keep tasting just like spaghetti until they are done. Drain immediately, put back in the pan (off the heat), add a lump of butter to melt and a few crunchings of Maldon. Toss it all together. In fact that’s what I had tonight with some lovely salmon and smashed potatoes.

    Have fun “at home.” Keep eating, cooking, and, of course, writing. xoxo

    • rachel

      Cheshire cheese and maldon salt – very English and two favorites. I am back In Rome now but had a lovely time with my family and lots of good food. Hope you are well? x

  9. Shame on me for reading your post via email (no pics) instead of properly clicking over to your site. I thought we were making potato salad! This looks delicious just so, and yet I know I’m going to have to mix it all up with some homemade mayonnaise now just to see. Please forgive the future bastardization.

    • rachel

      I fully approve of any bastardization of this blog, I am just happy you all read along so patiently. Hope you are all well? x

  10. I love a meal so simple and tender boiled eggs are exactly how I love them. Beautiful post.

  11. Eha

    Cannot belive how similar many of us can be right across the world! Love, love, love asparagus and cook and eat it in exactly the same way, sometimes substituting airdried ham [jamon, prosciutto, coppa] for the egg. One of the most perfect meals I know!! I don’t peel my asparagus but get rid of the tough part by the ‘snap’ method and that flower-opening steamer: i must have had dozens of them thru’ the years – so easy to fit into any-sized pan! Enjoy!!!!!!

    • rachel

      I agree, food symmetry that brings us all together. With proscuitto too – yes absolutely. The metal petal flower thing is brilliant, I have brought one back for here in Rome.

  12. Ah lovely! We had our first home grown asparagus last week and what a treat. I got the water to a furious boil and all four of us tramped out to the garden to witness the picking, hurried them back in and boiled for less then two minutes. I couldn’t bear to peel or snap so we just sucked the woody ends to get every last bit. We only had two spears each but they were the best two spears. Now waiting for the next eight spears to be big enough. Enjoy your trip. I am starting to get a bit panicked about your flat hunt though… x

  13. Anna Noble

    Dear Rachel Re your trip to your parents in southern England. Judging by their interesting cutlery and crockery, I wonder did you parents grow their own asparagus? The taste is remarkably different from asparagus bought from market or supermarket. in England. We are there for a while, having lived in Umbria. Your blog feeds my heart but the shop bought vegetables are mostly dire. The vegetables are indeed much “greener” over in Italia.

    • rachel

      My mum is green fingered and has a lovely vegetable garden, no asparagus though, these were bought locally in Herts – pretty lovely spears. I agree shop bought veg are usually sad and it is so hard to find good local sources in The UK now. Which is a tragedy as they can (peas, leeks, spring onions, potatoes, asparagus, lettuce, soft fruit) be so nice.

  14. This is right up my alley. Every morsel and bit. Headed to airport in two hours…

  15. What a perfect & simple lunch! I love it. I may have to do the same soon–with California asparagus, of course. 🙂

  16. di chi sono le posate? bellissime!!!

  17. Perfect Spring lunch in England or in Italy!

  18. Hi Rachel

    How’s it going?

    Thought I would have a quick trip over and see what you were up to. We have the sprue asparagus is Spain too, although we never manage to get to it before the locals. Missed out on some a month or two ago 😦

    The trick with hollandaise is patience. And low heat, but unless you say what went wrong I can’t help. But there are some tricks to retrieve it, a bit like mayonnaise.

    I went to stay with a university friend once. She was cooking salmon for dinner. ‘Can you just cook the hollandaise please?’ she loftily said, as she waltzed off for a bath with her boyfriend. I did 😀

    Anyway, an easier sauce is this:

    Scroll down to the bottom for the recipe and pix.

    PS I’m the nasty person who, oh well, I’m sure you remember.

    • rachel

      Of course I do and I am surprised but cautiously happy to have you here.. I am usually quite good at hollandaise, the flame was too high and I was being sloppy so it serves me right. Thanks for recipe, I will have a look

      • It’s ok, I may be sarcastic at home, but I can be polite when I am visiting 😉

        So my shot in the dark about the heat was not too far off the mark? It’s classic though isn’t it? Too high, try and rush it, and whoosh. I do like faffing with oil/butter and eggs (eg a mayo) and various other sauces, but they all take time. As you obviously know.

        One of my non-veg readers (actually they are mostly non-veg) tried out the sauce, and was most impressed with it 🙂

        Here’s a better link (on my recipes page rather than blog post)

  19. Christine

    Asparagus and eggs are one of my favorite combos. In frittata, in a lemony dressing with chopped hard boiled eggs…delicious!

    Looking forward to your next post. xoxox

  20. Oh! I didn’t realise that you too shared those mixed feelings of the sort-of emigrant. But yes, asparagus twice IS a bonus, and I’m glad to hear that the Italians too like their asparagus slim green and tasty, rather than the way the French prefer it, fat, white and blowsy. Lucky for us though, because they sell the slim green stuff off at bargain-basement prices.

  21. Pingback: Recipes to Try | Live and Learn

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